, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 165–184 | Cite as

Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum: A Vision

  • Robert H. EnnisEmail author


This essay offers a comprehensive vision for a higher education program incorporating critical thinking across the curriculum (CTAC) at hypothetical Alpha College, employing a rigorous detailed conception of critical thinking called “The Alpha Conception of Critical Thinking”. The program starts with a 1-year, required, freshman course, two-thirds of which focuses on a set of general critical thinking dispositions and abilities. The final third uses subject-matter issues to reinforce general critical thinking dispositions and abilities, teach samples of subject matter, and introduce subject-specific critical thinking. Subject-matter departmental and other units will make long-range plans for incorporating critical thinking in varying amounts in subject-matter courses, culminating in a written Senior Thesis/Project involving investigating, taking, and defending a position, which reinforce critical thinking abilities and dispositions and increase subject-matter knowledge. Teaching approaches used in the program are involving and based on the principle, “We learn what we use.” Both summative and formative assessment are employed as appropriate. Coordination and support are extensive. Objections and concerns are discussed, and alternatives, including possible transitions, are considered. An extended review of research supports moving toward CTAC.


Alpha conception of critical thinking Critical thinking Critical thinking across the curriculum General critical thinking Subject-specific critical thinking Critical thinking glossary Problem-based learning (PBL) Lecture-discussion teaching (LDT) Transfer Critical thinking principles Critical thinking abilities Critical thinking dispositions 



This is the final version of a practical proposal that has been developing over the past 3 years. It assumes my previous work in critical thinking and my faculty and some administrative experiences over many years. Earlier versions of this proposal were presented at the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, May 24, 2013; in Inquiry (Ennis 2013); at the conference on Reasoning, Argumentation, and Critical Thinking Instruction, Lund, Sweden, February 26, 2015; and at the II International Seminar on Critical Thinking, University of Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Villa Real, Portugal, May 8, 2015. I have profited from the many suggestions and challenges made in response to these presentations. The comments by Jennie Berg, Frank Fair, Derek Allen, Mark Battersby, Don Hatcher, Michael Scriven, Frank Zenker, and anonymous reviewers were very helpful.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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